Friday, August 12, 2022

Chamber of Mines says coal, copper will drive existing mines’ growth

The number of existing mines in Botswana is forecast to double in the next five to 10 years, primarily driven by coal and copper deposits.

The projection was made by Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) Chief Executive Officer, Charles Siwawa, at the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) stakeholder engagement seminar in Francistown last week.
With over 200 billion tonnes of coal deposits, Siwawa said Botswana boasts the second largest thermal coal reserves in Africa.

“There are other estimates indicating the Zambian copperbelt to extend to the western part of Botswana leading to discoveries of Hana Mine, Boseto, African Copper and others in that region.

“Preliminary indicators of iron ore deposits abound in this country in the south being considered to be extension of Sishen in South Africa, in the Central District (extension of the Thabazimbi) in South Africa and Ngamiland (perhaps no relations assigned at the moment, but certainly the rocks hosting the copper in this area have a strong relationship to the Zambian copper belt)”, said Siwawa, adding that diamonds have lifted Botswana’s economy from a low income to a middle-income country.

However, upbeat on the potential of the mining industry to the country’s economic growth, Siwawa warned that the possibility of finding other valuable gem diamond mines to size of Jwaneng are slim although smaller size deposits may, in the future, be exploited.

Siwawa bemoaned the dumping of soda ash products into the Botswana market which presents a big challenge for Botswana Ash (BOTASH) mine that has been operational for the past 30 years. The central part of the country has produced a potential uranium mine, the first of its kind in the country.

“In terms of energy, significant amount of coal bed methane has been found in the central part of Botswana mirroring the coal deposits. The single significant challenge is that of commercialisation of this CBM. The Orapa power station (peaking plant) was built on the premise of supply from the CBM fields, but had to have dual energisation from diesel whilst configuring the commercialisation.
Francistown is considered the centre of mining activity in the country located to the north and west of Botswana hence the city attracts significant trade from these areas,” the BCM chief said.

Siwawa observed that innovation brings more efficient and effective ways of doing business, especially in the mining industry with large equipment and machines taking over what the human being used to arduously carry out.

The BCM chief lamented the aborted Activox project which could have assisted in the treatment of oxides from copper mined at the Tati Mine, adding to its significant current life.

“Equipment, machines in the mining world are designed for general purposes and not necessarily specific to each mine. In the early stages of earthmoving equipment, there were no air-conditioners in the cabins of most and yet in areas such as Botswana, the ambient temperatures are excessive rendering the operator ineffective in their jobs. Most mining equipment operating in Botswana nowadays has air conditioners as standard,” said Siwawa in relation to how helpful innovation is to the mining industry.

The other innovation according to Siwawa is the Global Positioning System (GPS) that has improved mining operations such as drilling, blasting, hauling and surveying significantly.

“In all these innovative ideas, the mines could not have done by themselves, but in collaboration with other stakeholders such as research centres, universities and so forth. It is my hope that this trend can be taken across our institutions, BIH being one of them to take these mining operations to the next level,” said Siwawa optimistically.

For his part, BIH chief executive officer, Alan Boshwaen, said stakeholder engagement is critical to any organization that aspires to be the leader in what they do; hence the Botswana Innovation Hub team’s coming to Francistown to deepen public understanding of its vision, mandate and offering.
He said the team was in Francistown to fly the innovation flag, adding that innovation should be understood as the dissemination of something new in our context, not as something new in absolute terms.

“While advanced countries naturally work at the cutting edge of the technology frontier, developing countries have considerable opportunities for tapping into global knowledge and technology for dissemination in their local context,” said Boshwaen, adding that Botswana must focus on pragmatic innovations which will ring out relevant and innovative solutions to the real challenges facing it.

Boshwaen said BIH has forged partnerships with leading businesses and institutions to put in place specialized innovation support programmes to assist innovators, in carefully chosen focus sectors to move their ideas into the market place.


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